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Beep! Beep! Cubs are baseball’s hottest road runners

CINCINNATI – Maybe it’s the room service. Maybe it’s the rich, Corinthian leather seats on the charter flights. Maybe it’s the Reds.

But after rolling to another road victory Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, the Cubs are starting to look so comfortable away from home that hotels and take-out menus for the upcoming week at home might not be out of the question.

Their 9-0 victory over the Reds Sunday behind the pitching of Jason Hammel and power hitting of Anthony Rizzo ran their road record this season to 10-3 – matching the best road start for the franchise in at least 103 years (home-road records are less reliable before 1914).

It’s only the fourth time in that span they’ve started that well through 13 games, first since 1995 (also 1987 and 1946).

“Our guys like the moment,” said manager Joe Maddon – whose club is 19-3 in their last 22 road games, going back to mid-September. “I don’t think we’re intimidated by going into loud places. I don’t know if the Wrigley experience helps that, the fact we’re always playing in front of full houses.”

Relatively quiet places don’t seem to bother them either – with Jake Arrieta throwing his no-hitter in a 16-0 victory Thursday with official attendance at Great American Ball Park barely 16,000.

“I think we’re going to be a good team regardless of whether we’re playing at home or on the road,” said first-year Cub Ben Zobrist, who has played on two World Series teams. “We’ve had some great pitching performances, and some of these teams that we’ve faced, that are struggling right now might be a little bit better in the middle part of the year.”

It’s hard to imagine the Reds, for example, will look worse. Even including a 13-5 loss to them on Saturday, the Cubs outscored the Reds 38-14 in the four-game series – 60-20 in seven games overall, including last week’s three-game sweep at home.

In fact, the Cubs are 6-1 against Cincinnati during that 19-3 road binge.

“I think it’s just how close our group is,” said Rizzo, who tweaked his stance and mechanics early in the week, resulting in another two homers Sunday that gave him five in five games.

“Jake throws a no-hitter, and I think 20 out of 25 guys are all hanging out at the hotel that night. It just speaks to the [closeness] of our team.”

To Zobrist’s other point, the Cubs’ 14-5 start overall this season matches their best 19-game start since 1907 (when they opened 16-3). They also went 14-5 in 1969.

But as the Cubs open a 19-game stretch that includes 16 at home, starting Tuesday after an off day, the road record looks especially impressive.

Consider their plus-80 run differential (124-53) over that 22-game stretch going back to last year. And not all of it has come against stiffs.

They beat the Cardinals two of three during this 5-2 trip, beat Cy Young winner Zack Greinke during a four-game series win at Arizona the first week of the season, and won their last three road meetings with the playoff-bound Pirates last season.

“At this point in the season you don’t think too much about who you’re playing as much as everybody’s trying to get in the groove,” Zobrist said. “We believed we were a good team in spring training, but we didn’t really play like that as a spring training team. But then as soon as the season started it was like, boom, we played well out of the gate.

“The first couple weeks has been great,” he said. “You hope you can continue to play as well on the road as we have. That’ll bode well for the long term hopefully.”